MARK L. BAKKE'S
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REPLY #1 TO "AIDS"


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) I was reading the your document aids.htm I wanted to point out to you a couple of things that makes AIDS special: unlike cancer, AIDS can be prevented.
(MB) Any non-genetic disease can be prevented. More correctly, the chance of contracting such a disease can be dramatically reduced. One can even greatly reduce his chances of getting most forms of cancer by paying careful attention to lifestyle and dietary habits.


(R) Also, AIDS unlike cancer, carries a stigma, and I do not think I need to elaborate much on that.
(MB) Indeed, you do not. That, however, is an emotional issue which arises only because anything related to sexual activity is viewed rather differently by most people. From a purely objective point-of-view, is there any difference between dying from incurable cancer and dying from AIDS?


(R) There are actually many other differences between AIDS and other lethal diseases.
(MB) The only one I can see is that AIDS is one of the few lethal diseases that an individual can largely avoid getting. Knowing this, however, why do some consider dying from AIDS to be something akin to a "national tragedy" when many of those same people would barely think twice about a smoker who dies from lung cancer or an alcoholic who dies from cirrhosis of the liver?


(R) This, quite obviously, does not mean that people with AIDS deserve more or less care than other terminally ill patients. It just means that their needs are different, both from the medical and the psychological point of view.
(MB) All sick people need and deserve care. It doesn't matter what ails them. Each affliction is unique in its care requirements. When determining the efforts necessary to find cures for terminal afflictions, however, the only logical method is to concentrate the most work on the ones that affect the most people.


(R) We give for granted that if we get ill our family and friends will be close to us. well, I used to think so, until I met people who have AIDS and started working with them as a volunteer. I think I understand now what it means when your sister will not touch you, when your friends will not come to your house, when the priest does not want to give you the last blessing because he will not touch your forehead.
(MB) The same can be said for those who suffer from other afflictions whose effects are repulsive or have been the subject of popular myth and misinformation. Leprosy comes immediately to mind. So does Ebola. The best solution here is education.


(R) do you know what most of the people with AIDS I know want most? a hug. I know people who will impatiently wait until you leave their house, because they know you are going to hug them on the door steps.
(MB) Don't they also get a hug when that person first arrives at their house? In any case, this is something *everybody* wants -- and something that even perfectly healthy people can't always get.


(R) This is one of the reasons for which I think AIDS World Day, or the Quilt are important: they tell people with AIDS that there are people who care for them, independently of the way they got sick.
(MB) I wonder if there might also be a darker message under the surface. Do these things suggest that one can go ahead and make the lifestyle choices that present greater risks of AIDS because he knows that he'll have a strong support network should they lose their gamble? Consider what might happen if a cure for AIDS is ever found. Would people start treating AIDS like gonorrhea -- "Oops! Hey, doc, give me a shot of [insert wonder drug here]."?


(R) They also have great educational value, because they remind people who do not have AIDS that there is this a horrible virus out there, and that they'd better be careful with their behavior.
(MB) How many millions still smoke despite knowing that it is very likely to kill them some day? People don't need to be reminded that AIDS is deadly. They already know that. The "educational effort" here is to attempt to modify the attitudes of people towards AIDS and those afflicted with it.


(R) I really do not understand why people question things like "AIDS World Day": the fact that I care for people with AIDS does not mean that I do not care for the others. AIDS world day is a wonderful way for many people to get together and remember loved ones. It is a beautiful act of love, which is the only thing that comes for free.
(MB) I'm not saying that it's "bad". I'm merely pointing out that it is disproportionate and that there may well be motives other than "love" behind the observances.


(R) I lost people to aids and I lost people to leukemia, and if there were a leukemia world day I would certainly attend related events, because it would help me to deal with my grief (by the way, I grew up in Italy and I remember leukemia day over there).
(MB) You are right to feel grief over those you have lost. We all feel a particular attachment to causes that have affected us personally.


(R) my guess is that the only reason for which there is no Cancer world day, or it there is it does not receive so much attention, is that people with cancer get enough emotional support from their families, and there has never been a need for this kind of event.
(MB) Possibly, but that's a poor way to determine where research dollars and efforts should be spent.


(R) As a concluding remark, I would like to point out that you may want to review your statistics about the spread of AIDS, because you may find that the situation is worse than what you think.
(MB) Unadulterated statistics are readily available from numerous reliable sources. There is also lots of exaggerated nonsense available from those who are promoting the cause.


(R) Surgeon General Everett Koop said that there are two categories of Americans: the people who are affected by AIDS now, and the people who will be, and, unfortunately, I tend to believe it.
(MB) By "affected", he means, of course, people who will either get AIDS or those who will know somebody who has it. In that regard, his statement is hardly profound. One could just as easily insert "Lyme disease" or any other "trendy" affliction in place of AIDS.



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